Please note that the following story and photos might be graphic or overwhelming for some readers. We feel like this story is worth sharing as part of our ongoing efforts to connect our guests, campers and staff with their food. Yesterday, we offered some of our own internal considerations, and would welcome your comments as well.
On Tuesday, October 29th, Camp Stevens butchered one of our five pigs. We have raised them since June in a large patch of oak woodlands behind the Blum Lodge. Summer campers, outdoor education students, and retreat center guests have interacted and spent time with them by bringing down food waste from the Dining Hall and asking questions like, “Why do you have pigs?” and “What will you do with them?”. The answer is sometimes hard to hear: We are raising our pigs for meat.
Since they first arrived, they have fit well into our Camp Stevens ecology, which attempts to demonstrate (because we cannot always fully live into) an earth-friendly and efficient closed system: In their pen, the pigs root for acorns that fall from the oak trees (These nuts are not toxic to pigs as they are to some other animals, like cattle.), munch on poison oak (We appreciate that!), and efficiently consume food waste from our Dining Hall (which minimizes both how much feed we need to purchase, as well as our human “footprint”).
On the day of the butchering, we chose the smallest pig, in hopes it would be the easiest to manage throughout the process. The pig was given a portion of feed to keep it occupied as it was killed it with one shot. The pig (about 250 pounds) was carried to the tractor where it was attached by the tendons in its hooves, and then driven to behind the Dining Hall, to an area set up with a bath tub of 160 degree water, a table, and tools for the subsequent steps.
At this point, the pig was scalded to loosen its hair and then scraped to reveal its pinkish-white skin previously protected under a thick, black coat. A blowtorch was used to scorch off the last bits of hair. Now clean, it was time for the evisceration (removing the viscera, or internal organs). This involved precise cuts and breaking through the pelvis and sternum. With the evisceration complete, the meat was left to rest for a few days.
We hope you’ll consider our thoughts about raising pork, and share yours with us in the comments. If you are interested in purchasing a pig share (25 pounds of Camp Stevens-raised pork), please contact ashleyATcampstevensDOTorg.